Charging the Future | God's World News

Charging the Future

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    Betavolt’s battery is around the size of a Chinese 5 Jiao coin or a U.S. quarter. (Betavolt)
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    Betavolt says its betavoltaic battery can provide power for 50 years. (Betavolt)
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    Betavoltaic batteries can be useful for medical devices like hearing aids. Those devices need constant power. (AP/Alan Youngblood)
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    Betavolt’s batteries produce very small amounts of power. Betavolt hopes to attain one watt by the year 2025. A typical home nightlight uses about four watts. (Pottery Barn handout)
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A coin-sized battery is having a big impact. Betavoltaic batteries produce low levels of electricity and run for many years. Imagine never needing to plug your phone—or any other small device—in again.

Betavoltaic batteries are nuclear, or atomic, batteries. They harness power from decaying isotopes (a type of atom). The decay produces electrical current without heat.

Scientists have been experimenting with betavoltaics since the 1950s. Small, reliable, lightweight betavoltaic batteries can last for decades. They perform well in environments from outer space to inside the human body and in temperatures from -76° to 248° Fahrenheit. Those qualities make them ideal energy sources for medical implants, military gear, and space instruments. Drones, hearing aids, pacemakers, and microbots can—or already do!—use betavoltaics.

Many companies are testing betavoltaics. But a Chinese company hopes to bring a version to a wider market. Beijing Betavolt New Energy Technology Company Ltd says its betavoltaic battery can work for 50 years without maintenance or charging.

Called the “world’s first miniaturized atomic energy system,” the battery is about a half-inch square and less than a quarter inch thick.

Why hasn’t this power source caught on?

First, the batteries produce a very small amount of continuous energy. Betavolt hopes to attain one watt by the year 2025. For reference, a typical home nightlight uses about four watts. So they’re not powerful.

Second, isotopes don’t stop decaying, so these batteries can’t be turned off. That makes them useful only in situations needing nonstop power.

There’s also a safety issue.

With any type of nuclear energy, people must be concerned about radiation—especially on, in, or near one’s person.

Scientists claim betavoltaic batteries are safe. Engineers build them in layers that supposedly lessen the danger of fire or explosion. As for nuclear risk, the Betavolt battery includes outer shielding, preventing external radiation. And the company’s scientists say that the nickel-63 isotope used in the battery decays into copper, which is stable and non-radioactive. However, danger during production remains a concern.

Betavolt’s battery is still in the testing phase. Betavolt chairman and CEO Zhang Wei says, “If policies permit, atomic energy batteries can allow a mobile phone never to be charged, and drones that can [now fly for only] 15 minutes can fly continuously.”

But betavoltaics will need to overcome serious limits before nuclear batteries charge into the future.

Why? Scientists are still exploring the power God placed in one tiny part of creation, the atom.

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